Graduation: 10 things I wish I’d known 20 years ago

IMG_7650.jpgI had the honor of speaking at a commencement ceremony at the University of Tennessee, Knoxville last week.  It was an exciting afternoon- with happy graduates, proud family members and smiles everywhere.

As I began preparing my remarks, I realized that it was the 20th anniversary of my graduation from UT.  It was an exciting time.  I had just accepted my first “real” job on a college campus, I was about to marry Hollianne, and we were preparing to move to Ohio to begin our lives as a married couple.

Looking back, I realized how much I’ve learned in those twenty years.  I decided to share ten of these life lessons with the graduates.

10 things I wish I’d known 20 years ago:

10) Every decision you make in life impacts someone else.  Think about the implications of every choice you make.  One who is wise is cautious and turns away from evil, but a fool is reckless and careless.  Proverbs 14:16

9)  The job isn’t ever just about you.  The opportunity to have your job is a privilege.  Treat your coworkers with care…as equals.  Success is earned by working together as a team.  Two are better than one, because they have a good reward for their toil. For if they fall, one will lift up his fellow. But woe to him who is alone when he falls and has not another to lift him up! Again, if two lie together, they keep warm, but how can one keep warm alone? And though a man might prevail against one who is alone, two will withstand him—a threefold cord is not quickly broken.  Ecclesiastes 4:9-12

8)  When it comes to “being in the know”, those who talk a lot usually aren’t in the know.  Idle talk is useless in the workplace.  Be a part of the solution…not a part of the problem.  Let no corrupting talk come out of your mouths, but only such as is good for building up, as fits the occasion, that it may give grace to those who hear.  Ephesians 4:29

7)  Take tasks off your boss’ desk.  Leadership is a lonely activity.  Those that we serve in the workplace have numerous demands on their time, and they need to find people that they can trust.  Become someone worthy of that trust.  And if anyone forces you to go one mile, go with him two miles.  Matthew 5:41

6)  No task is too small for you.  Humility is a wonderful thing.  For everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, and he who humbles himself will be exalted.  Luke 14:11

5)  You are replaceable.  No single person is essential to the success of a business.  You will never be bigger than the organization you serve.  When pride comes, then comes disgrace, but with the humble is wisdom.  Proverbs 11:2

4)  Everybody has a first name.  All people have worth.  All people deserve our respect.  It is essential that we know those people around us who are investing in the success of our organization.  Get to know their interests, their joys and their pain.  Invest in them.  Do nothing from rivalry or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves.  Philippians 2:3

3)  Whatever task you are asked to do, do it with all your heart.  Whatever you do, work heartily, as for the Lord and not for men…  Colossians 3:23

2)  Dinner with your family is important. We are all busy.  We will never complete our to-do lists at the office.  But it is essential that we invest in those that we love…and that love us.  The work will always be there.  It’s important to build our relationships with those that bring us joy and renewal, too.  Beloved, let us love one another, for love is from God, and whoever loves has been born of God and knows God.  1 John 4:7

1)  When you don’t know what to do, remember to do no harm until you do.  Find good, trusted mentors and seek their counsel.  Wisdom comes from careful reflection and life experience- so seek help from those you trust when faced with difficult decisions.  If any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask God, who gives generously to all without reproach, and it will be given him.  James 1:5

Let’s pray for all the new graduates- high school and college- this week.  May they find success and peace during this period of transition, and may they glorify God in all that they do.

God bless you.

(reprinted from May 2015)

 

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It doesn’t cost a thing to be kind

I was in the “20 items or less” lane at a busy grocery store last week. A few customers ahead of me was a young woman with two small kids. One was a crying infant. The other was a curious two-year old who wanted to be anywhere but in that store. I could tell that it had been a long day for the mom.

She was doing her best to empty her items on the checkout counter…balancing one child on her shoulder and verbally coaxing the other to stay close by. Suddenly, the customer immediately behind her snapped and said: “you’ve got 22 items.”

The mother responded with, “I’m sorry…what did you say?”

“I said, you’ve got 22 items in your cart. The sign clearly says 20 items or less,” she hissed.

The mother was truly embarrassed and crushed. “I’m so sorry. I didn’t know,” she replied.

It broke her spirit. I saw tears well up in that mother’s eyes as she hurriedly paid her bill and exited the store.

Let all bitterness and wrath and anger and clamor and slander be put away from you, along with all malice. Be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, as God in Christ forgave you. Ephesians 4:31-32

I was stunned with what I had witnessed. The angry words and a hateful tone lingered in the air for minutes after the incident.

I prayed for that mom and her two kids. I also prayed for the angry woman in line with us.

And it served as a powerful reminder to me.

Attitude is everything.

We cannot control what situations life throws at us, but we can control our response.

And kindness doesn’t cost a thing.

My prayer this week is to be more forgiving. I want to be more loving and compassionate. I want to be kind.

Let the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart be acceptable in your sight, O Lord, my rock and my redeemer. Psalm 19:14

Please let me know how to pray for you.

God bless.

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What’s your Titanic?

The Titanic sank 106 years ago this week. Approximately 1,500 of the 2,200 passengers died when the cruise ship hit an iceberg in the North Atlantic Ocean on April 15, 1912. It’s considered to be the biggest maritime disaster in history.

The ship had been designed to be indestructible, but five compartments were punctured by the iceberg and the entire ship sank in a little over two hours.

Pride and overconfidence can create a Titanic situation in our own lives.

I sometimes get too comfortable in my own skin. Perhaps it’s a streak of success at home or work, or maybe it’s a sense of pride that I feel in my own abilities.

When pride comes, then comes disgrace, but with the humble is wisdom. Proverbs 11:2

Inevitably, I then experience a “bump” that exposes my weaknesses. Life brings events that us that knock us down and can crush our spirit.

Pride goes before destruction, and a haughty spirit before a fall. Proverbs 16:18

The key to life is keeping a humble spirit….a prayerful, grateful spirit that guides our thoughts and activities.

For everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, and he who humbles himself will be exalted. Luke 14:11

Spending time in God’s word keeps us centered and humble. If we make our daily walk with Jesus our first priority, we will be better prepared to deal with life’s Titanic “bumps.”

My prayer this weekend is to willingly let go of any pockets of pride in my life. I desire an attitude of service, love and humility.

And let me know how I may pray for you.

God bless.

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Don’t Look Back

I traveled in the northwest this week, spending several days in Seattle and Portland.  The weather was incredible. I tried delicious food in good restaurants.  I got outside in the mornings and ran through trees and alongside lakes.  It was exhilarating.

I actually thought about how nice it would be to live there.

But after four days of travel, I was ready to come home.  I missed my family and my house. I longed for the familiarity and security of the small town where I live.

It’s comfortable here.

Jesus wants us to be uncomfortable.

I’ve been reading Luke chapter 9 this week.  This passage talks about the cost of following Jesus.  Three different men interacted with Jesus in this passage.  Each one talked about following Jesus, but none of them wanted to leave everything and pursue a life of obedience and service.

One man wanted to first go home and bury his father. Another wanted to go home and say goodbye to his family.

Jesus said to him, “No one who puts his hand to the plow and looks back is fit for the kingdom of God. Luke‬ ‭9:62‬

Could you leave your family, your friends, your job?  Could you walk away from everything you know and just start over?

It’s hard to think about, but God calls us to seek the Kingdom of God…first.

But seek ye first the kingdom of God, and his righteousness; and all these things shall be added unto you. Matthew 6:33

We have a command and then a promise.  The command is to seek God first.  The promise is that God will place all we need into our lives.

My prayer this week is to let go of some of the “comfortable” in my life.  I need less routine and more Jesus.

And let me know how I may pray for you.

God bless.

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Cheap Easter candy

Easter has come and gone. And- as with all holidays- the retail stores have marked down the Easter-themed decorations and associated seasonal items.

The biggest surprise for the Carver kids has been the discounting of the celebrated Easter candy. Chocolate bunnies, brightly colored jelly beans and marshmallow peeps are now 75% off their original price. Just over a week ago the aisles of the local stores were filled with colorful packages. Now the remains of the holiday treats are contained in a couple of bins near the check out counter.

Cheap candy. Valued one day, forgotten the next.

But to be honest, I’m often guilty of cheapening the sacrifice of Jesus and diminishing the blessing of His resurrection.

He himself bore our sins in his body on the tree, that we might die to sin and live to righteousness. By his wounds you have been healed.  I Peter 2:24

Easter Sunday is filled with great sermons about the fulfilled promise of salvation. We should be careful that we don’t limit this celebration to a few special occasions.

So the Jews said to him, “What sign do you show us for doing these things?” Jesus answered them, “Destroy this temple, and in three days I will raise it up.” The Jews then said, “It has taken forty-six years to build this temple, and will you raise it up in three days?” But he was speaking about the temple of his body. When therefore he was raised from the dead, his disciples remembered that he had said this, and they believed the Scripture and the word that Jesus had spoken.  John 2:18-22

While the Easter holiday has passed, the significance of Christ’s death and resurrection is something that we should appreciate every day.

Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! According to his great mercy, he has caused us to be born again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead,to an inheritance that is imperishable, undefiled, and unfading, kept in heaven for you,who by God’s power are being guarded through faith for a salvation ready to be revealed in the last time.  I Peter 1:3-5

Pray for me to be more diligent in my study of the life of Jesus and His powerful teachings.

And please let me know how I may pray for you.  God bless.

reprinted from April 2015

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Stuff

How much is enough?

And he said to them, “Take nothing for your journey, no staff, nor bag, nor bread, nor money; and do not have two tunics. And whatever house you enter, stay there, and from there depart. Luke‬ ‭9:3-4‬

My family has lived in our new house for 15 months. We’ve finally placed pictures on the walls and figured out what furniture goes in which room. It feels like our “home” now.

Hollianne and I had a revelation over the weekend. While we downsized our possessions when we moved across the state, we’ve somehow- in just over fifteen months- started accumulating more “stuff.” Our attic is filling up. The closet in our basement is crowded. Our pantry is packed…and we are thinking about doubling its size.

Some of the happiest people I know are those with very little in terms of worldly possessions. Missionaries who have dedicated their lives to living with (and serving) the poor. People who have committed to living in rural, impoverished areas to improve conditions there….or social workers who are fighting poverty and crime in urban areas.

Its time to refocus. Our purpose has nothing to do with finding comfort through worldly possessions.

We are not called to be comfortable.

We need to invest in relationships. Good, nurturing relationships that spread the love of Jesus.

“But godliness with contentment is great gain, for we brought nothing into the world, and we cannot take anything out of the world. But if we have food and clothing, with these we will be content. But those who desire to be rich fall into temptation, into a snare, into many senseless and harmful desires that plunge people into ruin and destruction.” 1 Timothy 6:6-9‬

My prayer for this weekend is to focus on what I truly need- rather than what I want. I need a renewed attitude toward sharing the hope of Jesus and His message of forgiveness and love. This is what will bring contentment.

Please let me know how I can pray for you.

God bless.

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